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Slovakia moves first patients abroad to help hospitals

·1 min read
Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Nitra

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia has transferred its first coronavirus patients abroad, to Poland, as the central-European country's hospitals filled with COVID patients amid a resurgent pandemic.

Slovakia has reported the world's highest number of COVID-related deaths per capita over the past week as the government's restrictions have failed so far to tame the spread of the coronavirus.

"First patients were transported to (Poland's) Gorlice," Health Ministry state secretary Peter Stachura said on Facebook.

He said that Poland and Germany have offered to take 10 patients each from Slovakia. Romania helped with transforming some beds in Slovak hospitals so that they can be used for COVID patients whose lungs couldn't cope.

Slovakia's hospitals have been stretched by record numbers of coronavirus patients, around 4,000. The country of 5.5 million has reported 7,560 coronavirus deaths.

The government has tightened anti-epidemic measures as of Wednesday, including stricter limits on people's movement, and it said if these steps don't prove sufficient by March 21, then even more severe restrictions were possible.

The country is also getting help with vaccine supplies from its European Union peers, while Prime Minister Igor Matovic has also looked beyond the EU, shaking his own ruling coalition by buying doses of Russia's Sputnik V.

(Reporting by Robert Muller, editing by Larry King)